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Naked City

TOD's First Stop: City Council

By Lee Nichols, February 4, 2005, News

The proposed Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance, which would allow higher-intensity development around stops on Capital Metro's incoming commuter rail line (see "Here Comes the Train," last week), comes before the Austin City Council tonight (Thursday), allegedly at 6pm. The Austin Transit Communities Coalition (that's the new name of the ad hoc group of neighborhood and affordable housing activists described in that article) plans to be there, as group member Frank Fernandez says, "to articulate their vision for how Austin grows as a community – one that ensures that TOD districts value affordability, neighborhood planning, accessibility, green-building, and renewable energies." ATCC plans to push for two amendments to the ordinance, as well as a resolution concerning affordable housing and community values with the TODs.

One of the amendments will change language stating that station area plans "may establish requirements for affordable housing" (our italics) to the stronger "must prescribe requirements for affordable housing and include a plan for achieving the affordable housing requirements."

The second amendment would mandate that affordable housing be established in every TOD district, set baselines for what constitutes "affordable," require protections for existing district residents to maintain affordability, and require that TODs be developed within the framework of already established neighborhood plans (something the city's lead TOD planner George Adams had promised to do anyway).

The proposed resolution contains similar language, and also requires that new development within TODs comply with green building standards and that the city manager develop "a clearly defined public process with meaningful public input" to implement station area plans.

The unknown X factor for tonight: Will there be any outright opposition to TODs? So far, any such opponents have not made themselves known; most TOD Ordinance critics are those who want to modify it, not kill it.

Also on the horizon: The city of Leander is reportedly working on its own TOD Ordinance to accommodate its stop on the rail line.

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